The city’s decade-old public arts ordinance is being questioned after the Houston Arts Alliance bought a $360,000 sculpture.
The sculpture, “Standing Vase with Five Flowers,” is the work of Texas native James Surls and will be displayed outside the parks and recreation department’s headquarters on Wayside Drive in southeast Houston.
Council approved the purchase back in August, before the city’s finance director announced that Houston could face a $50 to $80 million budget shortfall by the end of the fiscal year. There is talk of potential furloughs to close the gap and several departments are consolidating to save money.
The city officially unveiled the sculpture Thursday afternoon.
“Our budget is short,” said city councilman Al Hoang. “Years ago, there was a surplus. At this point, we need to resolve jobs.”
Hoang wants to tweak the city’s public arts ordinance. It was passed in 1999 and sets aside 1.75 percent of the city’s new construction budget for art.
Hoang would like that percentage to be reduced to just one percent. He added that “this is nothing against art, but this is about priorities.”
The Houston Arts Alliance argues that the publicly-funded art around the city is its own investment.
“The more beautiful our city is, the more rich our arts and cultural scene is, the more inclined people are to come to visit, and the more inclined companies are to relocate here,” said Ryland Holmes, the group’s communications director.
She added that nonprofit art projects are responsible for 14,000 jobs and $626 million every year in the Houston area.
City Council is expected to discuss ways to trim the Bayou City’s budget over the next few weeks. Hoang said he would bring his suggestion before a budget committee, but it’s unclear if any action will be taken.